Security switch to be completed in 4 phases: Ghani
BAMYAN CITY (PAN): The first phase of the much-awaited security transition from international troops to Afghan forces was set in motion in central Bamyan province on Sunday, officials said.
A ceremony marking the transfer of security to Afghan forces was held at the police headquarters in the provincial capital, Bamyan City. Bamyan is the first of the seven areas to be shifted to Afghan security control.
Scheduled to be completed by the end of 2014, the first phase of the switch covers Mazar-i-Sharif, Herat, Lashkargah, Kabul, Panjsher and Mahtarlam.
Dr. Ashraf Ghani, in charge of the security handover programme which would see partial troop drawdowns from Afghanistan this year, told the ceremony the strategy would be implemented in four phases.
Security, reconstruction, the rule of law and good governance are the salient features of the process, according to Ghani, who said an amount of $20 billion had been set aside for the project. About $85 million will be spent on reconstruction schemes in Bamyan.
Governor Habiba Sarabi said the process did not mean the international fraternity would abandon Afghanistan. She was confident the world would stand by the country until all terrorists were eliminated.
The vacuum created by the pullout of NATO-led soldiers would be filled by Afghan security forces, she said, explaining that Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) troops from New Zealand would stay in the province.
Defence Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak hoped the Afghan police and army would be able over the next three years to defend their motherland without heavy reliance on support from their foreign partners.
Ministers of interior and defence, the security transition commission chief, the New Zealand ambassador to Afghanistan and senior officials attended the ceremony, said Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, the governor's spokesman.
Addressing the participants, US Ambassador Karl Eikenberry assured: "We stand by the people of Afghanistan. We will continue to support efforts at promoting tourism in Bamyan and purging the province of landmines."
Former International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Josef Blotz had earlier told a media briefing that Bamyan and Panjsher PRT members would be unaffected by the transition programme.
The PRT soldiers will train and help build the capacity of Afghan forces in addition to participating in reconstruction projects.
Of the 140,000 foreign troops currently stationed in Afghanistan, 100,000 are Americans. Based on President Barack Obama's new strategy, the US has embarked on the troop drawdown.
About 650 US troops recently left Afghanistan. Obama has decided to pull out a third of the 100,000 US troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2012.
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